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What's the difference between Silver, Golden, and Amber Alerts?

These alerts are intended to keep the community safe, but there is some confusion over what each one means.

LOUISVILLE, Ky. — Today’s WHAS Up question comes from - quite a few of you, actually - wondering why certain alerts from law enforcement are certain “colors.” Specifically, why will a missing kid sometimes get an Amber Alert, and sometimes get a Golden or Silver Alert?

This is particularly complicated for us because we have both Kentucky and Indiana alerts coming at us. So, let’s start with Silver and Golden. 

If someone goes missing in Kentucky and has some sort of medical or cognitive disability—like Alzheimer’s, dementia, or autism, for example—a Golden Alert is sent out. If someone fits these criteria in Indiana, it’s a Silver Alert. This is true regardless of age, so a Golden or Silver Alert can go out for someone who is 8 years old, or 80 years old. 

Credit: WHAS11
A Golden Alert and Silver Alert both apply to a missing person with a medical concern or disability. Golden Alerts are specific to Kentucky, Silver Alerts are specific to Indiana.

The use of Silver Alerts for children is actually quite recent. In July of 2018, Indiana passed a law that added "missing endangered child" to the criteria for a Silver Alert. This would be a child who is incapable of returning to his or her home because of an inability or disability. 

Amber Alerts are only for minors, so anyone under the age of 18. However, the key difference that sets Amber Alerts apart from Silver or Golden Alerts is the kind of danger that is believed to exist. 

If a child with special needs or medical concerns is believed to have wandered off or is believed to be with a parent who is legally allowed to be with him or her, it will trigger a Silver or Golden Alert. If a child is believed to have been abducted and could be in grave danger, an Amber Alert is sent out. This distinction is determined by state police.

Credit: WHAS11
Golden and Silver Alerts apply to a person who is missing, Amber Alerts apply to a child who has been abducted and is in grave danger.

We talked to Chris Presley, Communications Supervisor for MetroSafe, to get more information on how Kentucky State Police declare Amber Alerts.

"An Amber Alert is specifically for cases of abduction," Presley said. "Like, a kidnapping from a playground, or where there’s a threat to the child... say maybe there is a parent who has taken a child who is barred from contact with that child or there’s a threat of a weapon involved.  Any type of situation where there’s a threat of harm to the child could be an Amber Alert."

While lawmakers are always looking for ways to improve and expand our emergency alert system, these alerts can be very helpful in keeping us safe.

Credit: WHAS11

Statistics can put that in perspective: According to the US Department of Justice, almost a thousand kids have been brought home safely thanks to Amber Alerts. Presley also said that there is a misconception that you have to wait 24 hours to report someone as missing.

"There is no need to wait 24 hours," he said. "If someone is missing, you call immediately, 911. You let us know, and we get the word out."

If you'd like to be notified when a person is declared missing in your area, you can sign up for LENS Alerts at this link.


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